Collection and delivery points are many and varied in the livestock game as trucks are involved up and down the supply chain. The basic loading set up at a cattle property, as well as the loading and unloading facilities in sale yards and abattoirs are an ongoing concern.
“The transport industry has no choice but to adapt with modern engineering and technology over time,” says Athol. “Which we have done really well. Whether that be the latest safety features on our new Kenworth trucks, to working with Byrne trailers to introduce new features, such as ladders and steps.
“Lighting has been a huge benefit inside trailers. Who would have thought we would have internal lights in cattle crates? This and things like blocking gates make it much more user friendly down the road.”
While the safety in truck and trailer has been improved, the loading and unloading equipment can be old and inadequate at times. This issue needs to be approached with some diplomacy on the part of the trucking operator.
“In the last 12 months we have seen a rise in the awareness of some of the archaic sale yards infrastructure that is still out there,” says Athol. “It’s all about communication with the stakeholders involved. Sometimes they simply don’t know about the problems. If you can bring it to their attention and get a quick bit of welding done, or a fix made for our next visit, you are making progress.
“In the supply chain we are exposed to everything from a paddock pick up environment, to a hobby farmer, to large corporate stations through to sale yards and export holding yards, to various abattoir facilities. We are quite unique in the supply chain, because we are exposed to everything.
“It’s all about making people aware, to educate and bring people along a process of what looks good. It doesn’t have to be a Rolls Royce. Sometimes, there is a very simple solution to modify something.”
Eyes on Fatigue
Frasers is involved with the QTA’s Eyes on Fatigue project, which is in its initial stages. The project has set up a program where QTA members can take part in a trial of in-vehicle driver monitoring technology. Funded by the Motor Accident Insurance Commission (MAIC), the aim is to ascertain the effectiveness of driver monitoring technology in reducing the incidence of driver distraction, inattention and fatigue episodes. The technology being used is the Gen 2 Guardian Seeing Machine System.
“We’re just about to embark on a two year trial and will be fitting the system into ten of our fleet,” says Athol. “Hopefully, this will lead to the Heavy Vehicle National Lawreview considering alternative methods of emerging driver monitoring technology. This may or may not give us more flexibility for our fatigue management.
“The beauty of this system is it works in a couple of ways. The in-cab sensors alert the driver in real time of a fatigue or distraction event. The systems are about to be fitted and we have had to go through a massive driver engagement program for this implementation .”
This will be the first time Frasers will have a sensor fitted in the trucks. Some drivers have their own dash cams for their own peace of mind. The baseline information gathered will be analysed and operators like Frasers hope to get some real world outcomes out of the project. Any increase in flexibility in the fatigue sphere is going to be welcome, for an operation which covers the vast distances of Outback Australia.
The ongoing drought which is becoming nationwide is leading to uncertainty for many rural businesses and Frasers are not immune to the situations. However, the livestock transport industry is always in a state of flux from region to region, simply due to the prevailing conditions. There is an inbuilt resilience built into the business model of all successful livestock carters.
Grain fed beef can be relatively drought-proof and can keep operating. Stock also needs to keep moving chasing the grass, wherever it may be. Movements vary with the climate, but they seem to be needed no matter where we are in the cycle.
The most important thing for an operation like Frasers is to ensure it keeps up with the latest developments while not losing sight of its core traditional principles.
One of Athol’s projects in the past couple of years was his involvement with the QTA Emerging Leaders Program and, later, the 2019 ATA’s Daimler Future Leaders Program.
His project, called ‘The Lost Art’ in this program involved looking at the driver shortage and the feasibility of introducing a driver offsider program. Having an offsider is something which has fallen by the wayside in trucking, but it could be a vital way to get young drivers up to speed on the culture and skills involved in handling multi-combination vehicles, using the existing skill base still working in the industry, up and down the supply chain.
“I think we need to look at where we came from,” says Athol. “We can look to the future, but also need to reflect on our past. These things worked in the past and go back to the early 1900s, like the apprentice to the bullock driver.
“We talk about new and emerging technology and what the future holds and the transport industry in Australia has got a great future. This industry is here to stay, but it’s about how we sustain that workforce and move ahead with the times.”